What’s the difference between a white truffle and a black truffle, you say? Surely the color! Whilst that may be true for chocolate truffles, truffles are actually a gourmet, relatively difficult to find type of fungus, found growing in forests in the shade of various trees. Because they’re found deep underground in the soil, they are covered with a thin layer of brown dust – which is where chocolate cocoa-covered truffles get their name from.
White truffles and black truffles have one obvious difference – their color. But they have many more differences than their initial appearance. Both can be harvested in summer and in winter, but winter whites and summer whites are exactly the same fungus, just harvested at different times of the year, whereas winter black truffles and summer black truffles are different varieties of fungus altogether.
Most chefs agree that white truffles are best utilised raw, whilst black truffles are best cooked. White truffles have a lovely depth of flavour, with hints of garlic and shallot and an intense musky aroma. All truffles have lots of gas trapped in them, but white truffles have more of this gas, meaning that when they are cut or shaved, more of this gas is released, making them a very aromatic and flavorsome truffle to use – at the beginning. This gas begins to dissipate over time and if the truffle is cooked, over time, the truffle will be less flavorsome – which is why it’s definitely best to use white truffles shaved or grated fresh over foods, instead of in sauces or other dishes where the flavour will be cooked out.
Summer white truffles are probably your best bet for using raw as they are far more inexpensive than winter truffles, which means you can afford to use a little bit more and experiment a little bit more with different flavour combinations. The flavour is still sweet with hints of garlic, but is just a little less musky than winter white truffle.
Black winter truffles are the most sought after truffle, regardless of where they are found, and they fetch extremely high prices due to their subtle, earthy flavour that was once described as being like ‘chocolate and earth’. Summer black truffles are also lovely, although they do have less of an aroma than white truffles. Their flavour is still quite earthy and chocolatey, but only when cooked out. Summer black truffles can also be shaved or grated fresh over foods and their aroma will last longer than white truffles’ aroma.
If you don’t want to use fresh truffles in your cooking or you cannot find them, it may be a good idea to invest in a bottle of truffle oil. A few drops of this oil and you’ll be treated with plenty of deep, earthy aromas and a subtle flavour that you can’t quite put your finger on. Use truffle oil in béchamel sauces, bolognese and even over fresh salad leaves for an entirely different eating experience. The bonus is, a bottle of truffle oil will last you at least a year for a relatively small investment.Interested in learning more? Eater features a 60 Minutes snippet about the underbelly of the truffle industry!